Philadelphia Eagles: Andrew Sendejo looks like a game changer

(Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)
(Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images) /

While his initial signing was met with little fanfare, Andrew Sendejo looks like a revelation to the Philadelphia Eagles’ big nickel package.

When Andrew Sendejo took the field in the Philadelphia Eagles‘ first preseason game of the summer, it just looked weird.

Maybe it was because he was wearing the number 42, the number previously worn by great special-teamer but horrible safety Chris Maragos, or maybe it’s because of how close to the line of scrimmage he was playing, looking more like a linebacker than a defensive back, but once the first snap of the game shot from Ben Jones‘ hands into Marcus Mariota‘s, the ninth-year vet came alive in a way very few saw coming.

That is, unless you’re familiar with Sendejo’s body of work.

More from Philadelphia Eagles

An undrafted free agent coming out of Rice, Sendejo started off his professional career as a member of the Sacramento Mountain Lions, before joining the Dallas Cowboys – initially on their practice squad and then on their active roster – on a two-year contract.

However, Sendejo’s tenure in Dallas was short-lived, as he was waived in the trim down to 53 on the eve of his sophomore season only to be claimed by the New York Jets as part of a bizarre Rex Ryan plan to learn the intricacies of his brother‘s defensive scheme (yes, really). This stop off in the Big Apple lasted all of 23 games and resulted in his second trip to the practice squad, and onto the open market in as many years.

Fortunately for Sendejo, this would be the final time he would have to worry about the practice squad life.

After a month and a half on the open market, Sendejo signed a one-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings to serve as a backup strong safety on Leslie Frazier‘s squad behind
Jamarca Sanford.

From there, Sendejo steadily rose up the team’s depth chart and remained a fixture of the Vikings’ secondary for the better part of a decade, at least until he suffered a Week 5 groin injury against your friendly neighborhood Eagles and was exiled to IR for the remainder of the 2018 season. While his four-year, $16 million deal still had a team option for the 2019 season, Mike Zimmer and company ultimately decided to part ways with their longest-tenured defensive back to go young(er) at the position with Anthony Harris and 2019 fifth-round draft pick Marcus Epps.

Fortunately, the Vikings’ loss is the Eagles’ gain.

While Sendejo may not be a perfect fit in every scheme across the NFL and is fairly peerless in regards to Eagles’ safeties over the last decade, his unique combination of size, speed, and hit power could unlock the Eagles’ subpackage game to a whole new world of creative possibilities.

Here’s how.

In the Birds’ summer debut against the Tennessee Titans, Sendejo spent the majority of his limited defensive snaps playing in the box near the line of scrimmage. While playing a defensive back in the box is nothing new – strong safeties are often called box safeties after all – Sendejo’s responsibilities looked more like that of a linebacker than what Jim Schwartz typically asks Malcolm Jenkins to do on the interior.

Maybe Sendejo was simply being asked to fill Jenkins’ role in a trial run of the Birds’ new-look front, or Schwartz opted to deploy his new safety in a creative way to mask the Birds’ sheer lack of depth at linebacker, but the idea of using Sendejo in a base package in place of a weakside linebacker – especially with Kamu Grugier-Hill still on the mend – could be a stroke of brilliance against a team with dynamic scoring threats at tight end, or a particularly elusive running back.

While running a 4.65 is pretty darn slow for a defensive back, it’s pretty good for a linebacker and shouldn’t be an issue against the vast majority of non-wide receivers crossing the middle of the field.

Furthermore, having a player like Sendejo on the field alongside a pair of converted cornerbacks in Jenkins and Rodney McLeod (if he ever gets healthy) would give Schwartz incredible switchability in who covers who from snap to snap.

As teams transition into more flexible sets where a player like Trace McSorley or Taysom Hill could play wide receiver on one play, running back on the next, and even quarterback in a neo-Wildcat set, having a collection of versatile stoppers who can flex from one position to another is an invaluable counter in this cat and mouse game of chess.

Next. Eli Harold presents a unique reclamation project. dark

Will Sendejo play every snap? Barring disaster, probably not, but Corey Graham was on the field for over 60 percent of the Philadelphia Eagles’ snaps last season, and Andrew Sendejo is a certified fresh upgrade over the 34-year-old Schwartz lifer in almost every way – with the potential to open up a world of new nickel and dime options with a trio of position flexible safties.